Trainee nurses ‘do not spend enough time with patients’
Nurses can start their careers unable to care for patients because they have spent too long in lecture halls, a nursing leader has warned. Peter Carter, head of the Royal College of Nursing, said many new recruits were ‘not up to the mark’ following degree courses that lacked practical work.
His comments reflect widespread concern that elderly and vulnerable patients are neglected in hospitals and care homes because nurses and other staff are not providing basic standards of care. The failings were highlighted in a damning report by the Health Service Ombudsman that revealed some patients were left so thirsty they could not even call for help.
Dr Carter called for a reappraisal of the training system in which nurses take a three-year degree with time divided equally between the classroom and the wards. He claimed some courses provided insufficient patient contact. Before nursing degrees were introduced in the 1990s, training was more hands-on.
Dr Carter also warned that untrained healthcare assistants now carry out many tasks once reserved for nurses, such as helping patients to eat and drink, cleaning bedsores and taking blood samples. Around 600,000 are employed in hospital wards and care homes, or as carers visiting people in their own homes.
Unlike doctors and nurses, they are not monitored by an official watchdog and cannot be struck off. If they abuse a patient or commit an offence there is nothing to stop them being employed at another hospital or care home.
‘What we have on hospital wards, and particularly in domiciliary care and care homes, is an unregulated, untrained workforce who are picking up so much of this job as they go along,’ said Dr Carter.
‘You don’t need registered nurses to do every task. ‘But things like wound care, nutrition, hygiene, moving people in bed, these are techniques that need to be properly taught, and not something that should be picked up on the job.
‘We require regulation and training in just about every other walk of life. Gas fitters have to be registered. But somehow when it comes to patient care we’ve got this unregulated, untrained workforce and then people wonder from time to time why there are problems.’
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: ‘Healthcare assistants need to be properly trained and regulated. ‘Patients expect that the staff looking after them have had the appropriate rigorous training to fulfil their role. ‘It is shocking that healthcare assistants have little or no regulation or formalised training before they see patients.
‘It is particularly confusing for patients as it is very hard to identify on the ward between nurses and healthcare assistants. Patients don’t know the level of expertise of the person treating them.
‘Nobody should ever be allowed to undertake procedures on patients without appropriate training and real supervision.’
A Department of Health spokesman said the Government planned a register of healthcare assistants to ensure they are properly regulated.
‘The Government intends to establish the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care as the national accrediting body for a system of assured voluntary registers for groups that are currently not subject to statutory professional regulation, which includes healthcare assistants,’ the spokesman added.
In the 1960s, 70s and 80s nurses were given brief classroom work followed by apprentice-style training on the wards to learn at the bedside. They often covered night shifts when they were in charge of an entire ward on their own. Many started straight from school aged 17 and were qualified by the time they were 20. The average age of qualification today is 29.
Trainee nurses attended nursing schools which were attached to every hospital. Courses there lasted three years – the same as today’s degree courses – but only a quarter of the time was spent in the classroom, the rest being dedicated to gaining hands-on experience in the wards.
Christian GP fights for job after asking ‘suicidal’ patient about his faith
A doctor accused of ‘inappropriately’ discussing his devout Christian faith during a consultation with a patient yesterday launched a legal battle to avoid being struck off.
Dr Richard Scott, 51, appeared before a disciplinary hearing after allegedly talking to the patient about Jesus in a way the General Medical Council described as ‘insensitive, exploitative and inappropriate’. The GMC heard Dr Scott had ‘crossed the line’ by allegedly suggesting the ‘suicidal and vulnerable’ patient could be helped by Christianity rather than his own faith.
The married GP is one of six Christian partners at a medical centre which states on its website that spiritual matters are likely to be discussed with patients during consultations.
But yesterday Dr Scott, who was educated at Cambridge, began a fight to clear his name after the mother of one of his patients complained he had tried to foist his faith on her son.
Dr Scott refused to accept a formal warning, instead choosing to go to a full hearing. He claims he acted professionally and within the GMC guidelines, but if he loses he could be struck off.
The incident allegedly happened in August 2010, when the 24-year-old patient visited him at the Bethesda Medical Centre in Margate, Kent. Dr Scott, who used to be a medical missionary in Tanzania and India, says he gave the patient a full medical consultation, but felt he needed help to get out of a rut.
So at the end of the appointment, he began talking about his own Christian belief, saying it could give him ‘comfort and strength’. But afterwards, the 24-year-old told his mother ‘he just said I need Jesus’, prompting her to file a complaint.
Paul Ozin, counsel for the GMC, said: ‘A line was crossed because Dr Scott expressed his personal religious belief to a person who he knew was a vulnerable patient in a way that was plainly liable to cause the patient distress. ‘He suggested Jesus or Christianity – his own religion – offered something exclusive and superior to that offered by the patient’s own religion.’
The professional body placed an official warning on Dr Scott’s file as a ‘compromise’. But the GP, a doctor for 28 years, is calling on the GMC to strike out the complaint because it was made by the patient’s mother. Dr Scott claims she is not qualified to comment on what treatment a medical practitioner should prescribe her son.
Yesterday the hearing was told that the unnamed patient had been asked to attend the medical tribunal to testify against the GP, but he had not turned up because he was suffering from anxiety.
Lawyers are now arguing whether the panel can accept his written statement. Mr Ozin says it would be ‘unfair’ to call the witness when he is ‘ill’, but Dr Scott’s lawyer said he cannot defend himself properly if the man does not attend.
In an interview last May Dr Scott, a lay preacher, said: ‘I only discussed mutual faith after obtaining the patient’s permission. ‘In our conversation, I said that personally, I had found having faith in Jesus helped me and could help the patient. At no time did the patient indicate that they were offended, or that they wanted to stop the discussion. If that had been the case, I would have immediately ended the conversation.’
Dr Scott, whose wife Heather, 50, is also a doctor, said: ‘By appealing against the decision, it will go to a public hearing. But it is worth the risk as I wanted to do this because there is a bigger picture. ‘I wanted to give confidence and inspiration to other Christians who work in the medical profession.’
The case continues.
Busybody British Council bans NHS worker from living in her parents’ garden while she saves up mortgage deposit
As most first-time buyers will tell you, getting on the property ladder these days is a minor miracle. The first major hurdle is getting enough money together for a deposit.
With this in mind, Victoria Campbell and her boyfriend came up with a cunning plan to save cash more quickly – they moved into a rent-free garden shed. And the idea might have succeeded, but for Miss Campbell’s local council which has ruled that the structure does not provide ‘adequate living conditions’ and creates an ‘undesirable precedent’.
Officials have given her and Bill Warden, 26, nine months to move out or face a fine.
NHS care worker Miss Campbell, 20, and Mr Warden have been living in the shed in Miss Campbell’s parents’ back garden in Havant, Hampshire, since last September. They had hoped to save around £20,000 for a deposit on a house within around five years. Miss Campbell makes £7.80 an hour in her job and Mr Warden is a £20,000 a year senior care assistant at a private home.
Miss Campbell said: ‘My dream is to live in a three-bedroom home with Bill and start a family but it is so difficult to get on the property ladder these days. ‘My parents have one spare room in their house but it is barely big enough to fit a single bed, so it is no use to us.
‘I don’t want to rent because it feels like we are throwing money away when we could be paying off our debts and saving. Living in a shed seemed like a perfect idea. ‘I don’t understand why the council are trying to make us move out. If they force us out, we will be homeless and the shed will remain anyway. ‘Before we put it up we wrote to all neighbours within a 30-metre radius and did not receive a single complaint.’
The shed is 15ft by 15ft, has double-glazed windows and is heated by one oil radiator. It has no running water but draws electricity from the Campbell family’s main three-bedroom terraced house. The couple sleep on a fold-down sofa and eat their meals and wash in the main house.
Having had her retrospective application to use the shed as accommodation refused, Miss Campbell is now trying to get temporary permission with the help of consultants made up of former local authority planning officers.
Havant councillor Paul Buckley said the authority had been ‘sensitive’ to Miss Campbell’s circumstances. He said: ‘Although planning permission was refused by the committee, it was resolved that a generous compliance period of nine months should be observed to allow Miss Campbell to find alternative accommodation.’
Conservative UK: Most Britons still oppose gay marriage
Most people still oppose gay marriage and the adoption of children by same-sex couples, a Government report revealed yesterday. More than half believe homosexual marriages should not be allowed and two thirds think the adoption of children by same-sex couples should not have become legal nine years ago.
The findings from the Office for National Statistics suggest the Coalition’s plans to upgrade civil partnership laws to let gay couples describe themselves as married may prove unpopular.
Lib Dem Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone said last week that to deny marriage to same-sex couples was ‘simply not fair’.
But the ONS findings show many Britons still cling to conservative values and suggest Miss Featherstone’s claim that the UK is ‘a world leader in gay rights’ only applies to a minority of the population.
The report, based on sources including the annual British Social Attitudes survey and research by the EU’s Eurobarometer research arm, said only 45 per cent of British people agree that ‘homosexual marriages should be allowed throughout Europe’.
Christian groups oppose the idea on the grounds that it undermines the rights of married couples and their children. The ONS findings suggest they may command majority support.
The report shows support for adoption by gay couples is even lower. Adoption of children by same-sex couples was made possible by Tony Blair’s 2002 Adoption Act. Since Labour’s 2007 Sexual Orientation Regulations, at least ten Roman Catholic adoption agencies have ceased trying to find families for children because the law now compels them to consider offering children to gay couples.
The law, however, is out of step with opinion, the ONS report found. It put support in Britain for the proposition that ‘adoption of children should be authorised for homosexual couples throughout Europe’ at only 33 per cent, with two thirds opposed.
The ONS report said: ‘While the majority of British people now accept the concept of same-sex couples as being rarely wrong, or not wrong at all, fewer people approve of same-sex couples adopting children.
‘On average females have more liberal attitudes to same-sex partnerships than males.’ Civil partnerships for same-sex couples were first registered at the end of 2005, giving a gay couple the same legal rights as married couples.
The process for dissolution of a civil partnership is identical to the legal process of divorce. But gay couples may not describe their partnership as a marriage.
The report said the number of civil partnerships being registered has declined after an initial rush when many couples who wanted to put their relationship on a legal footing took advantage of the new law. There are around 1,000 civil partnerships each year. One in 14 of the couples have children, most of whom are adopted or were born in a previous marriage or relationship.
Broadcasters must hand over UK riot footage to police
BRITAIN’S major TV networks were forced to hand over hundreds of hours of footage of England’s August riots to cops after being served with court orders.
The BBC, Sky and ITN handed over the unbroadcast footage but voiced concern that staff covering future disorder could be attacked if people thought they would give evidence to the police.
Police forces can obtain production orders under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. A judge must weigh the interest of the police against the public interest of a free press.
Sky News said, “Our standard policy is that we do not supply material to the police without a court order. On occasions – as has happened with some of our footage of the riots – where police request untransmitted material and an order is obtained we will comply with it”.
The BBC confirmed that it was obeying the court order. “Police requests for BBC untransmitted material are dealt with through our legal department, regardless of the subject matter. We require requests for untransmitted material to be made through the courts.”
An ITN spokesperson said, “ITN’s policy is that we do not release unbroadcast material to police. On some occasions when the police apply to a judge for a court order to force the release of such material, we have challenged the police’s application.”
A spokeswoman for the Met said, “The police are identifying people through pictures, CCTV and through the media to ensure that people are brought to justice. We would ask the media to work with the police to ensure that happens.”
The Metropolitan Police has already made more than 2,500 arrests and are still examining thousands of hours of CCTV footage.
Trendy teachers cheat the poor and lay the groundwork for riots
WHEN I became a teacher some 12 years ago in London, I genuinely believed that the only way one could make a difference to the underprivileged was to work for the state. I believed the state education system stimulated social mobility.
But my time teaching in some of London’s inner-city schools has taught me much. I have seen things you would never believe. As every year ticked by, I became more and more frustrated with the lies we teachers were having to tell the public. We had to pretend that our schools were better than they were in order to trick parents into sending us their children. Ninety three per cent of our children in Britain are educated in the state sector and there is a great divide between the private and state sectors.
The state sector is always trying to prove that it is just as good as the private sector, if not better. And because everyone knows, deep down, that this simply isn’t true. Let’s face it, British children are now rated 16th in the world for science, 25th for reading and 28th for maths, according to the OECD’s 2009 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) report. The 2000 PISA report ranked British children as fourth for science, seventh for reading and eighth for maths. We now spend more than 80 billion ($123bn) a year (double what we spent in the 1990s) on education and yet British schoolchildren have plummeted in the international league tables.
So I wrote a book, To Miss with Love, with the intention of it being published anonymously because I knew just how dangerous it was to speak to the truth. But then, before publication, I spoke at the Conservative Party conference in October last year about our broken education system, revealing some of my thoughts on what needs fixing. As a British teacher recently told me, there was nothing I said in the speech that teachers don’t say everyday in staffrooms across the country. We simply aren’t allowed to say it out loud. The state school system literally prevents its teachers from speaking their minds.
The riots in London did not come as a surprise to British teachers. We have not only been predicting that kind of general chaos for years, but we experience it on a daily basis in our schools. We have many Australian travelling teachers who enter our school system as supply teachers. Generally, they are shocked by what they see and experience in our classrooms. It is the same for German, French or Spanish teachers. The only visiting teachers who are used to our behaviour problems and low standards are those who come from the American inner cities. And riots, of course, are not unfamiliar to them. The difference between the American and British school systems is that the international community knows just how bad American schooling can be. But Britain still lives off its old reputation as the Mother Country, leading the Commonwealth and its empire in all that is true and good.
But the real truth is that not only does the state in Britain tie teachers’ hands, but it does the same to parents, resulting in a breakdown of authority both in our schools and in our homes. Some parents try desperately to bring their children up properly and struggle. I have spent my career meeting parents who are brought to tears because of their unruly teenagers. Some say that they cannot discipline their children because their children threaten to call the police and cry abuse. Every time their child misbehaves, rather than being able to discipline them appropriately, they remember their neighbour or their friend or their cousin who was handcuffed in their own house and hauled away by the police, their children put into social care for a night, all because of some made-up story.
I remember one Jamaican woman pleading with me in school, desperately wanting to discipline her daughter but the parenting classes she was attending at the council suggested she use more praise. She said to me, “But how can I always be praising her when she gets so much wrong?” The “prizes for all culture” doesn’t just exist in our schools. It is endemic in our society to a point where not only do we not question it, but those who have old-school values are forced to conform to the “gold stars for everyone” mantra dictated by the state.
The same thing happens at school. The bad children are constantly receiving prizes simply for remaining quiet or for turning up on time. The teachers, in order to win round the bad children, are taught by their line managers and teacher training institutions that praise is what is needed to motivate children. So we all use it to saturation point, devaluing the worth of the gold star. Meanwhile, the good children, who are left in the dark because no one notices, eventually become bad in an effort to gain some attention.
Eventually, the cool gangster lifestyle that these children have pumped into their minds six to seven hours a day from MTV takes over. Their understanding of “success” is not marriage, a job and a couple of kids. It is cars, women and bling. Our bookshops were not looted, and if you didn’t have a sports or mobile phone shop on your High Street, you knew your community was probably safe. Who allows our children to watch so much MTV? The very parents who are exhausted because their children are spiralling out of control and yet are told by the council they should use more praise, or the single parents, encouraged to stay single by the state with promises of free flats and welfare cheques, who can’t possibly juggle a full-time job, three or four children, a household and a life.
The schools struggle to keep order, partly because of the low standards of the education system but also because teachers are encouraged to constantly do group work and entertain the children. Children must never be bored, and if they are, or if they disrupt, it is the teacher’s fault. Children are never held to account for what they do. Is it any wonder that some of them decided to show the police that they were in charge and went out looting?
State schools ought to promote social mobility. They should not simply perpetuate the class system and ensure that those who go to private schools are taught well, and only those taught in leafy suburb middle-class state schools stand a chance of a half-decent education.
Unfortunately a number of people with power believe that the way to improve education for our children is to ban tradition from our classrooms _ stop being so fuddy duddy and appeal to children by making things more “fun”.
We believe it is unfashionable to have desks in rows and so some schools actually ban traditional rows in favour of always having desks in groups. Some schools abandon the more traditional academic subjects altogether and do not teach them at all. In an effort to raise their standing in the league tables, schools will have children take drama, PE, or media studies, abandoning, history, physics or French to do so, and our so-called progressive thinkers rejoice, saying that these subjects are more suited to certain children. It is funny how the children these subjects suit are never their own.
The tradition of competition which we celebrate in the world of sport has become unfashionable in the academic classroom and innovation requires that children never be given grades and are never allowed to know where they stand in comparison to their peers. Tradition in education has become a dirty word and is reserved for the elite while innovation is what is given to the poor.
The irony is that the rejection of all that is traditional comes from people who were themselves beneficiaries of a very traditional education but remembering some of their classes at school as being boring, are now trying to reform the education system for these kids to make it more interesting. So they can be very well meaning people. So, for instance, Richard Branson who famously dropped out of school at 15, thinks schools overeducate children, and stunt the early sparks of entrepreneurship. But what Branson forgets is that he had the most traditional of educations – having been educated at one of Britain’s top private schools and yet he is the most extraordinary entrepreneur. And Branson underestimates just how much his education has contributed to his success. What Branson was able to take away at age 15 from school, far outstrips the standard of education that some of our Western youngsters are currently accessing even at university level. Some of our university degrees are the equivalent in standard to what children used to do at age 15 in school in the 1970s. Branson would probably find these degrees ludicrously easy.
General thinking around school being boring makes it possible for us to have reached a stage where teachers are no longer expected to teach and instead they must be facilitators of learning with constant group work going on, where the teacher is rarely standing in front of the class, but instead moves amongst the children who are all busy doing something. The idea here is that “doing” is more interesting than “listening”. And that might very well be true. But the problem comes when we think that “doing” needs to happen most of the time. This means that the teacher, a great source of knowledge, almost becomes redundant as a fountain of knowledge and instead becomes a bit of a referee. We don’t value the importance of teaching knowledge for the children to then do something with. Innovation is considered to be only “doing” – a complete rejection of all that is traditional.
The problem is that we all underestimate the knowledge that we have and use everyday. Try to read any article in the newspaper and you’ll find that there is an assumption of background knowledge. Recently, I read an article about Carla Bruni. To understand just the title and subtitle, one would have had to know who she was, that she is married to Nicholas Sarkozy and you’d have to know that he was the President of France, what being a president means, and, indeed, you would have to know what France is – is it a city? Is it a country? Is it in Europe? You may laugh, but I have, as a teacher had conversations with 14-year-olds in which they simply don’t understand the difference between France and Paris. For them, it is all the same! I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had conversations with kids about Winston Churchill where they think he’s “that dog” off the insurance advert.
Ordinary people don’t realise just how little some of our kids know. What we also forget is that the very thing that got us to where we are now was the kind of education that we had – our teachers actually teaching us knowledge, so that we know the difference between Paris and France, us sometimes being bored in lessons and learning the discipline to struggle through – how many people in business clinch a deal because they know the soft skills of being polite, know how to sit through a boring lecture, and are able to concentrate enough to still pick up what is necessary to impress the client? It is through the study of tough rigorous academic subjects that soft skills are often acquired. Traditional educations are not bad. And most of the progressives perpetuating this in our schools have benefited from one themselves. In other words they climb the ladder to the top and then unwittingly pull the ladder up from under them.
So in the past 30 years, the concept of teaching knowledge in our classrooms has nearly disappeared altogether. Teaching historical facts or lists of vocab which rely on memory skills is considered old-fashioned. Instead, we think it better to inspire children to be creative through constant group discussion and project work. But background knowledge is absolutely essential to enable children to capture new ideas. For instance, when cars were first invented they were called horseless carriages. So to understand the new concept of a car, one had to have knowledge of horses and carriages, and the idea of something being “less” something else. In fact, modern neuroscience has shown that in order to grasp new concepts, pupils require a great deal of background knowledge.
As background knowledge is provided unequally in different homes, it is our duty in schools to level out the playing field. In some homes children are lucky enough to have tutors employed, conversations over dinner about the day’s news events and, as such, they can pick up facts about history, geography as they go. But instead of ensuring that all of our children should have access to that knowledge in school, we turn away from knowledge acquisition which is considered boring and teach skills like being empathetic or forming a point of view through what is a very seductive and seemingly better way of teaching. It seems more “fun” and the progressives like the idea of finally breaking free from the restriction of their own educational backgrounds.
So putting desks in rows in considered archaic, rote-learning is abandoned completely, even the idea of classrooms having walls is rejected _ encouraging chaos all around _ and our children quite literally are leaving school without basic knowledge in subjects such as English, maths and history. A recent study from the University of Sheffield showed that 20 per cent of the children leaving school in Britain are functionally illiterate. Schools, quite simply, need classrooms. And classrooms, in turn, require walls. When I first told my father that we were spending billions of pounds on schools building walless classrooms, he was baffled. You see, he grew up in poverty-stricken Guyana where he went to a school that had no walls because they couldn’t afford them. So for us to now spend billions recreating what the developing world is trying to move away from seems like lunacy. But that’s exactly what we’re doing.
If we want to equip our children with the power to change the world, they must first have knowledge of it and understand it. Unfortunately the “progressives” think that somehow knowledge is right-wing and boring. But this is simply not true. What makes Tony Benn, the well known British socialist who has campaigned against injustice all over the world, such a great speaker, or what gave Ian Flemming such a creative mind that he should create James Bond? What ensured that Churchill would be an inspirational leader, moving back and forth between the Liberal and Conservative parties? What ensured that Obama would be the first black American president? Their very traditional educations! Thomas Jefferson had a classical education but was so forward thinking that he signed the Declaration of Independence and Mark Zuckerberg is obsessed with Classics but is the founder of the transformational and innovative Facebook. What made these people into successes was the traditional educations that they had, the inspirational teachers who taught them, the love of learning that they picked up with their walled classrooms, desks in rows, with the teacher teaching at the front.
Traditional education in Britain these days is reserved only for the rich. Yet tradition is what has given us our most explosive revolutionaries. Stokely Carmichael who led the Black Panthers and was a major player in the civil rights movement in America dropped gang life, so inspired was he at his science specialist school and so busy was he reading Darwin and Marx. Mandela went to an elite Methodist mission school. Revolutions are created with traditional thinking. That doesn’t mean you can’t ever do any type of group work, or can’t ever go on to a computer. But it should not be a fight to have a school system where our poorest children should have access to an education that includes knowledge-acquisition, competition, a non-prizes for all culture, high standards of behaviour, and in an environment where everyone reaches for the very best.
This is where I believe there could be a real role for free schools in our inner cities in Britain. Our Conservative government has brought out these new proposals, copying the free school movement in Sweden and the Charter school movement in America. This month, our first batch of free schools opened – there were 24 of them. As free schools are free to do what is best for their children and do not have their hands tied behind their backs by the state, they are able to reject the cultural pressure that is felt in some of our ordinary state schools, and do something different. They are free to provide children with the tradition that is found in our better private schools.
They can offer an extended day, lessons that are about knowledge acquisition, and competition to drive up standards. They can provide classrooms with desks in rows and they can offer the more traditional subjects – and by this I don’t mean Latin necessarily – I simply mean the opportunity to do Spanish or history or the chance to study biology, chemistry and physics as separate subjects. The tradition of benchmarking children can be upheld, standing at assembly and holding high standards for uniform and behaviour can simply become part of the norm. In fact, bringing traditional thinking of this kind is to trail blaze and indeed be innovative. How wonderful it is that the free school movement should allow individuals in any community, to take responsibility, to know what issues face their particular community and to have the freedom to set up a school that can do something positive and new.
So I am trying to set up a free school in the depths of south London to do exactly what I say is needed, and educate these children in such a way so that riots like the ones we witnessed last month will not happen again. The ordinary people of south London – the poor, the single-parent families – are desperate for another choice of school in the area because there aren’t enough school places and they know how generally awful the schools are. Yet there are those from the National Union of Teachers and the Socialist Workers Party who oppose us. There are those, and it has to be said, they are the middle classes, who can afford to make up for their state school’s issues by employing tutors at home – who want to stop free schools from opening because they hate the idea of individuals taking away responsibilities and power from the state.
The only way our poorest children can succeed is for them to receive the same quality of education as our richest. They need the privilege of a traditional education – the type of education that most of us, it not all of us in this room have been lucky enough to have had. There is a quote that I love which sums up what I am saying: The education that is best for the best is the education that is best for all. Why did the riots happen? Because 20 per cent of our young people are functionally illiterate and do not know the difference between right and wrong. Because the education that is best for the best is kept only for the very few.
I only wish that these problems were confined to Britain. But I believe that in the West, these trends are to be found everywhere, and no doubt in Australia too. Some countries, such as Britain, are simply more advanced in their decline. My advice to all of you is to learn from our mistakes in Britain. Do not go down the trendy and very tempting route of believing that all that glistens is gold. I believe in conservative values precisely because they conserve what is traditional. If Australia learns from the hideous mistakes that Britain has made, I am certain that the old-school values that we have lost in Britain will ensure your country’s future success.
First-class? Top-level British degrees up by 34% prompting fresh concerns over grade inflation
The number of students graduating with a first-class degree has risen by a third over the past five years, prompting fresh concerns about grade inflation.
About one in seven graduates now obtains the top qualification, calling into question the worth of some degrees.
Almost 47,000 students gained firsts in 2009-10 compared with 34,825 in 2005-6 – a rise of 34.5 per cent, according to figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency. At the same time, almost half of graduates were awarded a 2.1 in 2009/10. Numbers gaining 2.1s have risen by 14.4 per cent – from 137,235 to 156,950 – over the same period. By contrast, there was only a 2.9 per cent increase in the number of graduates achieving a 2.2.
Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, said degrees have been subjected to ‘extraordinary grade inflation’ since the expansion of higher education in the 1990s.
Calling for a ‘starred first’ degree to identify exceptional students, he said: ‘Grades are inflating to the point that the classes aren’t going to be useful to future employers. They are going to have to take into account the university and the A-level results to distinguish between applicants.’ ‘I suspect what we will have to do is what has already been done in A-levels and GCSEs, which is to have a starred first.’
Universities have been trialling a graduate ‘report card’, aimed at giving a more accurate picture of students’ achievements. But the new Higher Education Achievement Report – a six page document – continues to list graduates’ overall degree classification.
There have been claims some lecturers turn a blind eye to plagiarism in a bid to help institutions climb league tables. University whistleblowers have also alleged external examiners have been ‘leaned on’ to boost grades.
The Commons select committee on innovation, universities, science and skills noted different institutions demanded ‘different levels of effort’ from students to get similar degrees.
British government’s wind farm plans are ‘big gamble’ and the numbers do not add up, say MPs
The Government’s wind farm plans are a ‘big gamble’ which may not pay off, according to a committee of MPs. They say ministers are banking on the cost of offshore wind going down and major improvements in efficiency to ‘make the numbers add up’.
In a report out today, they say a ‘supergrid’ – costing up to £60billion – may be needed to join Britain’s wind farms to plants in other European countries.
There are more than 500 turbines off the coast of the UK and another 1,000 approved or under construction. But thousands more will be needed to meet the target of generating 15 per cent of energy from renewable sources by 2020.
The Energy and Climate Change Committee report says: ‘Today the national grid is struggling to cope, because so much of our electricity is produced in remote areas, especially the North.
‘Our transmission systems do not always have the capacity to deliver power to where is needed. ‘If the Government hopes to deliver its aspirations at all, let alone in a cost-effective way…a more efficient way of connecting wind needs to be planned.’
It says offshore wind is necessary to reduce Britain’s dependence on oil. But the reports adds that it is ‘a notoriously expensive and intermittent source of electricity supply and imposing an unacceptable cost on consumers’.
It continues: ‘The Government is banking on reductions in the cost of offshore wind and improvements in efficiency to make the numbers add up.’
It was revealed this weekend that £2.6million was paid in compensation to 11 wind farm owners to switch off their plants because the National Grid could not cope with the surge in electricity.
The committee’s chairman, Tim Yeo, said connecting the UK’s electricity network to other countries would make the system cheaper and more efficient. He added: ‘At the moment we are paying some generators to switch off because we haven’t got the wires to deliver electricity from where it is produced to where it is needed. ‘An offshore grid can relieve some of this pressure.’
The cost of reinforcing the existing lines and cables to deliver electricity where it is needed has been put at £32billion by 2020, the committee said.
A spokesman for the Department for Energy and Climate Change said it was in talks with nine countries about the feasibility of a supergrid in the North Sea.
He added: ‘Offshore wind has a crucial role to play in the UK’s future energy mix, with huge potential benefits for our economy and our energy security, but we are clear that increasing offshore wind deployment is dependent on reducing the costs.’